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The Lost Community of Bowlingtown

The story of a thriving community of hundreds that once prospered where Buckhorn Lake state park now stands. A plaque will be dedicated in its memory.

Bowlingtown 1800 -1960:

Long before Buckhorn Lake was created and the state park established in 1964, a small community flourished for many generations here, along the middle fork of the Kentucky River. 

Early records refer to this area as the Bowling District, founded by Reverend Jesse Boling, his wife Mary Pennington, Reverend Duff and 50 other families.  They were led to this remote area under the guidance of Daniel  Boone.  By the late 1800's Bowlingtown was a thriving community of hundreds.  There was a post office, school, churches, grocery, saw mill, blacksmith and the Frontier Nursing Service.  Local officials included a sheriff, magistrate, justice of the peace, and tax commissioner.  The citizens were primarily farmers and coal miners.  They were known to be patriotic, honest, kind, and well-educated people. 

In 1960, when the construction of Buckhorn Lake began, Bowlingtown had to be abandoned and families relocated.  Family graves (873) were re-interred to Buckhorn Cemetery.  All were sad to leave their homeland of seven generations. 

This exhibit is dedicated in their memory.

I was probably one of the last to be born in Bowlingtown.  I started seven years ago to get the Buckhorn lodge or park renamed Bowlingtown.  I did this in memory of my grandfather and also to prevent my birthplace from disappearing.  When the Corp of Engineers decided to build the dam everyone was forced to leave.  This place had been a homeland for seven generations of family and friends (mostly Bowlings/Bollings).

His family and friends from Bowlingtown were scattered to the four winds.  That was the first time I saw him cry. 

My grandfather was a strong man who farmed and mined most his life to build up a heritage to leave his children (16+ acres in Perry Co and 64+ acres in Leslie).  The government gave him enough money to buy 1/2 acre "unfarmable, not even a garden" lot in Richmond, KY.  His family and friends from Bowlingtown were scattered to the four winds.  That was the first time I saw him cry.  He refused to visit Buckhorn Lodge or the lake because he and many others were adamant that it should have been named Bowlingtown.  Maybe now he can rest in peace and I'm sure he will smile once again for Bowlingtown. 

The lodge sits on the hill where the original log cabin school house was built in early 1800's, which a white frame schoolhouse replaced in early 1900's.  The beach and swimming area is where children and adults alike played baseball.  The picnic area was where they dug up hundreds of graves, which my grandfather watched to insure all relatives were properly re-interred at the top of the hill across from the lodge.  It was horrific and caused him nightmares.

So you see it has been very important to get a 2' x 3' sign installed in front of the lodge with Bowlingtown's history.  The sign illustrates the river and where the various families lived (designated by numbers) with a list of family members associated with each house.  The sign was designed by my Father, Floyd Hacker, who is 78 years old.  He also provided all the family names/members and where each house was located. There is a sign inside the lodge with a history of the Bowlings/Bollings that goes back to 1066 in Bradford, England (Bolling Castle still stands today in memory of the Bollings).

It is important to note  the source of the funds for this project: $2000 from Bowlingtown family and friends and $1000 grant from the KY Heritage Society; And without the KY State Parks co-operation this project still would be on the drawing board.

Jewell Gordon, Bowlingtown Project Mgr. 

The sign and exhibit honoring Bowlington was dedicated Saturday, October 2nd, 1:00 p.m. in the lodge at Buckhorn Lake State Park in Perry County. Hazard radio station WSGS-FM covered the event and Governor Paul Patton was scheduled to attend. 

For more information contact:

Jewell Gordon
telephone 303-361-6748
fax 303-344-5787